Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that teenagers who have used herbal products are six times more likely to have tried cocaine and 15 times more likely to have abused anabolic steroids than teens who have never used herbal products.
"The study points to the need for parents and health care providers to ask if teens are using herbal remedies and from there probe deeper for possible drug use," said study author, Susan Yussman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the university's Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong. "Children who are open to experimenting with herbal products may be more open to trying illicit drugs." The study, which is to be published in the March 23 in the Journal of Adolescent Health quizzed teens at Monroe County high school if "herbal or other natural products, either to make you feel better, or to help you perform better at sports or school." Included as herbal remedies were products like dietary supplements or even creatinine. "This was a cross-sectional study that examines an association, not a causal link. Health care providers should ask all adolescents about potential substance use, regardless of herbal product use," said Yussman. The study found that teens who used herbal products were 4.4 times more likely to have ever used LSD, PCP, ecstasy, mushrooms, and other illegal drugs and 14.5 times more likely to have ever used steroids. "Those numbers could go higher with a survey that includes students who don't attend school regularly or who have dropped out. Those teens are considered at higher risk for drug use," Yussman said. However, she added that further studies are needed to determine the link if any between herbal product use and substance abuse, "A teen using a sports-enhancing product probably has a very different substance use pattern than a teen taking echinacea for a cold," she said.
Contact: Heather Hare
University of Rochester Medical Center